Friday, February 20, 2015

Mood and Tone: A Lesson in Author's Style

Teaching tweens the nuances of mood and tone can be a challenge.  The terms are often interchangeable i.e., misused, and in a middle schooler's mind, they are sort of formless and abstract.  Yet, mood and tone are a very powerful literary concept.  They are literally what give text its "texture."


Enter my go-to visual Mood/Tone guy:




As the little guy above illustrates, the drive-through version of tone is the author's attitude toward the subject, and mood is the feeling of the reader.

Specifically, to teach tone, I refer to the anti-phony Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye:

  • "All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
  • “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”
  • “Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”
Holden’s tone is bitterly sarcastic and critical as he ruminates on the nature of things and the hypocrisy of people.  Salinger's tone is achieved through word choice.

Some words used to identify tone could be:
  1. Anxious
  2. Bold
  3. Confrontational
  4. Curious
  5. Dismissive
  6. Encouraging
  7. Hip
  8. Hopeful
  9. Open
  10. Overbearing
  11. Passionate
  12. Sarcastic
  13. Smarmy
  14. Suspicious
  15. Uncouth
  16. Upbeat
  17. Urbane
  18. Wisecracking
*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

To teach mood, I present Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken":

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

The gloomy, somber mood belies a voice and feeling of regret.  The speaker took the road less traveled, but wishes he could have traveled both.  The reader is left with the grave, somewhat melancholic fact that we only have one life to live, and choice is everything.

Some words used to identify mood could be:
  1. Alarming
  2. Brooding
  3. Buoyant
  4. Comical
  5. Confining
  6. Cool
  7. Dark
  8. Fantastical
  9. Hopeful
  10. Light
  11. Melancholy
  12. Ominous
  13. Oppressive
  14. Relaxed
  15. Sexy
  16. Spooky
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Warm

So forge ahead.  Demystify mood and tone, and teach author's style with aplomb.  Your students will catch on in no time, hopefully eager to hone their own writing style.

For more classroom activities and lessons on mood/tone and other literary concepts, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How to Snag a Hottie in Time for Valentine's Day by Lucy and CeCee

Okay, let's be honest.  No one wants to fly solo on the day that shall be nameless.  But the clock is a ticking.  So if you need a sweetie for the Valentine's Day Dance or just for general appearances (oops, we said it!) - here are some quick tips...  

Find a good candidate starting with someone who likes you for you. Other quality traits to look for in a guy are sweet, funny, and genuine. And let’s face it: cute doesn’t hurt, either. Stay away from boys who ego trip or only think about themselves.




When talking to him the first few times, you may be a little nervous. If so, ask him questions about himself or his classes. Here are some good questions to ask:

§  What are you listening to on your iPod?
§  Do you have (name a teacher)? How is your project coming along?
§  Are you going to the football game on Friday?
§  Do you know what time the bell rings?

Try to be friends first and get to know him in a casual setting. This will make the going-out stuff less awkward.

If you want to ask a guy out, approach him when he’s alone—not when he’s hanging with “the guys” and absolutely not when he’s talking with another girl. If the coast is clear, pop a breath mint, take a deep breath, and go for it!

Do a little recon investigation, and find out what your dude is into. If he likes sports, talk about a local or state team; if he likes music, chat up tunes and bands.

Don’t talk too much about yourself. For most guys, this is a turnoff.

If he makes a joke, laugh. Guys like to think they belong on Comedy Central.

If you’re apt to blush when you gush, don’t fret. Most guys think this is cute.

Make signs that you like him and are interested by smiling, making eye contact, lightly touching his arm, and the like.

It sounds dorky, but practice talking to your crush in the mirror. When the time comes, you’ll be a silver-tongued smoothie.

Helpful Hint #1: Don’t be a psycho-stalker.  Guys are pretty simple to figure out. If they like you, you’ll know it. If they don’t, move on.

Helpful Hint #2: Don’t have a friend tell his friend to tell his friend that you like him. Do your love work yourself! It shows confidence!


 Happy Valentine's Day!!!
 Lucy & CeCee




Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School Featured!!

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School is featured this month in Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids.  Check out this great tween magazine that highlights author interviews, reviews, excerpts, and more.







An Odyssey for the New Year

Every New Year begins a new journey.  An odyssey, if you will, where we aspire to reach a destination of goals, resolutions, and ambitions.  Of course there are always deterrents.  Sometimes monsters as ferociously daunting as Scylla or Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey obstruct our path.  But we are resolute, steadfastly brave and courageous as we face down our demons, just as Odysseus was in trying to reach his destination of Ithaca - home to his beloved Penelope and Telemachus.

This semester I will be undertaking an odyssey of my own, as I teach Homer’s epic.  After a quick invocation to the literary muse, I review the following epic conventions, pleasantly surprised as my students eagerly take notes and ask clarifying questions.  


  • The Epic Hero
  • Lengthy Narrative
  • Lofty Tone and Style
  • Epic Similes
  • Catalogs/Genealogies
  • Supernatural Involvement
  • Invocation
  • In Medias Res
  • Voyage Across the Sea
  • Trip to the Underworld
  • Epic Battles


At first, I’m bewildered how much they dig Homer’s interminable tome; yet, a quick analysis reveals the striking similarities they have with Odysseus and the epic genre itself.  Just like Odysseus, tweens are heroes of their own story.  Getting through a day of middle school might seem like a trip to the Underworld; they certainly have their own epic battles of drama to fight; and don’t even get me started on their plights of temptation.  But like Odysseus, they persevere (with a little help from the gods of course).  And in the end, they are winning the contest to prove their identity and retake their own throne, hopefully having grown in wisdom, judgment, and self-control.

As adults, the theme of The Odyssey retains its relevance as well.  Maybe we haven’t even reached our own Ithaca yet, but we’re still traveling and battling, island after island.  And that’s okay because as we know by now, life isn’t about the destination - it’s about the journey.  It’s our odyssey – monsters, goddesses, and all.


For classroom activities and lessons on The Odyssey and other classics, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:


Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I was reading a book...

Here is a list of my favorite Christmas classics that never fail to get me in the holiday spirit.  As Christmas creeps closer, I wrap myself in my favorite cuddle blanket, pour some hot cocoa (the frothy kind, made with real milk, and bobbing marshmallows), and go back to a time when I, too believed in a jolly man in red...


1) A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

2) The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg

3) How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss

4) "The Gift of the Magi" - O. Henry

5) The Nutcracker - E.T.A. Hoffman, illustrations by Maurice Sendak

6) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson

7) The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans

8) The Night Before Christmas - Jan Brett

9) The Tailor of Gloucester - Beatrix Potter

10) The Father Christmas Letters - J.R.R. Tolkien


Merry Christmas!!!


"God bless us, everyone!"  Tiny Tim, A Christmas Carol  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Books Make the Best Gifts! Support an Indie Author Today...

Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Time to put the freak-out on pause because outgoing, boy-crazy Lucy Pringle and shy, studious, bespectacled CeCee Cruz have the goods on how to make middle school the best three years ever! Lucy and CeCee-the official self-proclaimed Madison Heights Middle School experts on how to deal with haters, hormones, and hot lunch dilemmas-are ready to demystify swirlie urban legends and dish about academic and social topics. They're keeping it real, lacing diary entries with their own daily escapades regarding skater slacker boyfriend crushes, BFF shopping trips to the mall, and BEE (Bitter Eternal Enemies) text wars. The two seventh graders swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . . . so help them Good Fairy of Popularity. In this handbook, two girls who have already survived boyfriends, sleepovers, nerd crushes, detentions, and runaway pimples share helpful hints and lingo lessons that will help tweens not only survive, but thrive while navigating through all the gory glory of middle school.  

Check out Lucy and CeCee's official blog at http://tweengirlsrule.blogspot.com

Winner of Editor's Choice, Rising Star, San Francisco Festival of Books - Young Adult Honorable Mention, and New York Festival of Books - Young Adult Honorable Mention Awards.